January 10, 2013
City-by-City Rankings: Buying Power of Starting Associate Salaries
|City||Median Salary||Salary Required to Yield NYC Buying Power||Buying Power Index|
|Los Angeles, CA||160,000||97,110||1.648|
|Costa Mesa, CA||160,000||104,350||1.533|
|Grand Rapids, MI||97,500||65,375||1.484|
|Menlo Park, CA||160,000||109,910||1.456|
|Mountain View, CA||160,000||109,910||1.456|
|Palo Alto, CA||160,000||109,910||1.456|
|Salt Lake City, UT||97,000||69,180||1.402|
|Ft. Worth, TX||85,000||68,080||1.249|
|San Francisco, CA||145,000||118,980||1.219|
|Kansas City, MO||85,000||72,690||1.169|
|St. Louis, MO||75,000||66,620||1.126|
|Des Moines, IA||72,000||66,690||1.080|
|San Antonio, TX||71,000||68,080||1.043|
|Las Vegas, NV||75,000||73,200||1.025|
|New York, NY||160,000||160,000||1.000|
|San Diego, CA||85,000||95,500||0.890|
|W. Palm Beach, FL
|Okla. City, OK||56,250||66,180||0.850|
|Baton Rouge, LA||57,500||68,450||0.840|
|Boca Raton, FL||60,000||81,170||0.739|
|Ft. Lauderdale, FL||60,000||81,170||0.739|
|Little Rock, AR||50,000||69,980||0.714|
|Long Beach, CA||63,700||97,110||0.649|
|Beverly Hills, CA||60,000||97,110||0.618|
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One, did they get these median salaries from the law schools? Cause they seem inflated at the top end. Jones Day's starting salary in LA is $160k. They are the median? Not likely.
Two, I always think these cost of living comparisons are off. Does a person in Memphis making $65k really have more ability to pay down law school debt than someone in NYC making $160k? I seriously doubt it. Or what about if both want to go on vacation somewhere? Or who has more to invest and therefore if they both want to retire somewhere else?
Posted by: the real anon | Jan 10, 2013 10:51:12 AM
One big flaw here...omitting the *number of annual openings* in each metro.
NYC is indeed crap-tastic when it comes to cost-of-living - but it also represents a (distressingly) huge fraction of all annual legal hiring.
(Rather senselessly in the era of the internet, btw)
If NYC has 10,000 annual slots and Dallas 500...well, there isn't much law grads can do about it.
Posted by: cas127 | Jan 10, 2013 11:52:43 AM
I always wonder why Tucson is left out of tables like this. Its Metropolitan Statistical Area has a population of about 980,000, ranking it 52nd nationally, about the same as Salt Lake City (48), Albuquerque (57), and Omaha (58). Its MSA is also much higher than Knoxville (74),Grand Rapids, Michigan (69) and Madison (89).
Has NALP blacklisted the University of Arizona Law School and its hometown? Does it just consider Arizona another flyover state on their way from headquarters in Washington DC, to the left coast? Do they think Tucson is just a suburb of Phoenix, 120 miles away? (Madison and Milwaukee are closer, but are listed separately.)
Posted by: Bob | Jan 10, 2013 4:08:34 PM
This also doesn't reflect the growth of salaries in NYC vs elsewhere - salaries outside of the big legal markets are much more compressed, such that a senior associate in a mid-sized market (e.g., Memphis) may only be making what a first or second year associate makes in NYC, whereas a senior associate in NYC may pull down a salary higher than that of a junior equity partner in Memphis.
Thus the cost of living advantage enjoyed by associates in smaller markets is quickly eroded because their salaries grow at a far smaller rate than those of the NYC-scale markets.
Posted by: anon | Jan 10, 2013 6:46:19 PM
Median law school grad starting salary in LA entertainment biz is probably $40k. I recently had one working for me for $10 an hour for a while. It took me 15 years to crack 200k and I have one full time job and like 3 part time. But I haven't worked a day in probably 10 years - my career is a pure delight. I'd reckon less than half of the grads of my low tier ABA accredited law school ended up at law firms.
Posted by: charles in charge | Jan 10, 2013 7:16:57 PM
Kinda like The Economist's "Big Mac Index™" http://www.economist.com/search/apachesolr_search/big%20mac%20index
Posted by: Robert Arvanitis | Jan 10, 2013 8:00:14 PM
These have to be "big law" medians or, more likely "going rate" salaries. The commentator who notes New York has many more openings than other cities has a point, the top firms in other cities have to pay something close to New York 'going rate' salaries in order to get the top 'local' candidates who might otherwise take New York jobs. Most of those 'local' candidates who have gone to top law schools don't really realize the cost-of-living differentials between New York and other cities, most of which is taken up by housing and 'lifestyle' (e.g., eating out, cabs, etc.) costs which are not readily comparable. New York 'going rate' salaries are not all they're cracked up to be, especially given the billable hour differentials. Been there, done that.
Posted by: CatoRenasci | Jan 10, 2013 8:12:49 PM
This data is crap - the granularity is all wrong.
LA is $160k, but Beverly Hills is $60k? And Long Beach is $63.7k?
Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Mountain View (which are indistinguishable from each other) each get their own listing, but no San Jose listing?
Newark, NJ needs $95k to match the buying power of $160k right over the river? But Long Beach and Beverly Hills have the same cost of living?
Posted by: Anthony | Jan 11, 2013 1:15:40 AM